Saturday, June 25, 2011

Paris with Jaap... & David Lebovitz

Our Parisian holiday continues with some more beautiful sites, romantic moments, and more importantly some incredible culinary adventures. Delicious food in Paris (and Europe in general) is just another reason why I am forever needing to lose 10 pounds. But, it's okay. I've tasted things I have never thought could taste so good! 

I did a lot of research before we left and planned much of what we did based on recommendations from one of my favorite blogs David Lebovitz: Living the sweet life in Paris. (He's an American pastry chef, food writer, and cookbook author who lives in Paris now). This blog has become one of my new favorite daily reads. There's so much great culinary information about the city on here. So, the subtitle for our weekend should be, Paris: A culinary tour with David Lebovitz. His recommendations did not disappoint!
After the cemetery, we hopped back on our bikes and cycled over to another neighborhood. It's so much faster to get around on bike and cheaper. I wanted to make sure that we had good, affordable French food on our trip. I just didn't want to go to Paris and eat at over priced touristy restaurants when you know there are so many amazing choices out there. It just requires a little time and research. :) 

We went to Breizh Café for some delicious gallettes, crêpes, and sparkling apple cider. We ate some savory gallettes made with really fresh ingredients followed by a sweet crêpe with rhubarb and strawberries. My favorite reaction of the meal was after Jaap sampled the fizzy apple cider and said, "I could drink a whole bottle of that." 
Galeries Lafayette
When my mother was telling some family friends that we were going to Paris, they recommended that we go to the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette. It's a large department store that  is a cross between Bloomingdales and Macy's at Herald Square...but French. 
The rooftop is free and open to the public. We were able to take some great pictures and see Paris from a different angle. I'm glad we took the time to go there. The beautiful views were definitely worth it. Not to mention the interior was quite beautiful as well. Here are some pictures of us in front of the Opera house. 
After a long day of bike riding we went back to the hotel for a little nap before dinner. Jaap made us a dinner reservation at La Petite Chaise. (Another great recommendation from David Lebovitz's website). He described it as a place to come for if you if you want classic French food done right. It's also the oldest restaurant in Paris. I was very excited for our romantic French dinner!
We enjoyed an amazing three course meal complete with some delicious white and rosé wine. This meal was incredible. The pictures don't do it justice. We both chose fish for our main course and mine was made with a beurre blanc sauce. Followed by a much too big portion of crème brûlée. Not to mention the service was great. Free carafs of water for everyone! We didn't even have to ask. You won't find this service in the Netherlands. The French know how to dine. The whole evening was special, not because of the food, but because I got to spend some quality time with my Jaapie.  A relaxed and slow paced evening full of good conversation, good food, and romance. 
Our third and final day in Paris began with some beautiful sunshine and stroll along the Promenade Plantée. It's a green walkway created from an old 19th century railway viaduct near the Bastille area. (Almost like elevated train tracks turned into a public park). It's full of rose bushes, arches covered in vines, various herbs and other flowers. It's really quite peaceful. Lots of benches to relax on and have a quiet moment. Walking along the promenade gives you some interesting views of the neighborhood architecture as well. 
Promenade Plantée
Fountain outside our koffiepauze café
Our last afternoon in Paris was spent at the Musee d'Orsay and walking along the Seine. The Musée d'Orsay is quite the site. Even though we had to wait an hour on line to get in, it was worth it. Unfortunately, I have no pictures to post here. They were pretty strict about no photography. I was excited to see some impressionist paintings of Monet and Renoir that I have never seen in person before. That' always exciting. 
'Romantical in Paris' ends with a lovely stroll along the Seine. We were kind of tired after our visit to the d'Orsay, so we enjoyed some lunch and wine first and then headed over to the river. We sat down on a bench to take it all in. I told Jaap that I wish we had some music to listen to at the moment. He pulls out his Ipod touch and plays some tunes. Haha! 

What a great trip! I can't wait to go back. :) Here's a little video of our rest on the river. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vive La France!

Jardin du Luxembourg
Another amazing weekend getaway with Jaap and this time we returned to Paris. I had to pinch myself several times because I thought I was living in a dream world. I still can't get over how close we live to Paris and how close the Netherlands is to so many places and countries. I kept  turning to Jaap saying, "Is this my life? Where am I? This is amazing!" 

I LOVE France. I love French people, French food, the French way of life, the fact that everybody is running around the city with baguettes in their hand, the beautiful gardens, the architecture...everything! Paris is amazing.
The last time we went to Paris was with my parents, aunts, and uncles. 8 people and two nights. It was nuts, but fun. This time around we took the relaxed, "let's pretend we're Parisians" approach to the city. Long walks, bike riding, a museum, and of course amazing French cuisine.  
Two weeks ago was another holiday in the Netherlands, so we planned a long weekend trip. Yay! It's so easy to get to Paris by train, since it's only 3 hours away. But, the tickets were ridiculously expensive, so we decided to drive instead. It's not much longer by car, only 4 hours, and since I can drive stick now I drove the first half. Yay for me! I feel like I'm 16 all over again learning to drive a car. 
We spent Thursday afternoon at Jardin du Luxembourg. A beautiful park near the Sorbonne. Beautiful gardens, flowers, fountains, and statues. Lots of families and children playing in the various playgrounds. Tons of people sitting out and reading and lots of French people making out and showing ridiculous displays of public affection, everywhere. I love French people.
Since we were close by we walked over to the Pantheon. We were too late to go inside so we walked around the corner to another church and decided to go see the Eiffel Tower. It was still too early for dinner and the weather was beautiful, so we weren't ready to head indoors. 
What a sight to see. It's like the Empire State or Chrysler building. You never get tired of looking at it. The architecture is stunning. This time we went to go see it up close along the water. 

And of course, every long walk must come with a koffiepauze at some point. Although this time we went for a rosé wine instead. Lekker! We enjoyed a couple of glasses before heading out somewhere on the other side of the city for dinner.
Day two started on an adventurous note. We decided to rent bikes and see what Paris is like above ground, rather than traveling with the Metro all day. Paris has a public bike system where anyone can easily rent bikes from 30 minutes to hours at a time. Finding a bike stand with available bikes that weren't broken took us some time and included some confused phones calls with the customer service rep. In retrospect it's quite funny, but at the time Jaap and I were not laughing and trying hard not to get mad at each other. After everything was resolved, we were off. I felt so French! 

I would have never done something like this before living in the Netherlands. Surprisingly, I felt comfortable cruising through the city with our bikes. I think it's because bike riding has become such a big part of my life now, so I'm really used to it. I was preparing myself for the worst since many of the streets have no bike lanes and in most places outside of the Netherlands people could care less about bike riders. But in the end, I thought it was quite nice and didn't feel nervous at all. The great thing is that scooters aren't allowed on bike lanes. (Something I wish the Dutch would pick up on). Jaap was such a great navigator. Reading a map and bike riding at the same time is not an easy feat, but since he's Dutch, I knew he could handle it. 
I'm sure you have heard of Père Lachaise, one of the most famous cemeteries in Paris and probably the world. Most people go there to see Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, and Oscar Wilde, among others. We planned to take the 'dead composers' tour through Père Lachaise. We liked to stop by a composer's grave and pay tribute by singing a few bars of one of their famous works. We sang a little William Tell and Carmen to honor Rossini and Bizet. We still saw Jim Morrison, but Edith was a little too far on the other side. Here are some photos of our walk through the cemetery. It's a beautiful place to visit in Paris. 
Jim Morrison
Back on the bikes, we headed to our next stop for lunch at a delicious crêperie. More about this on a later post. But for now, au revoir!